He deserves to be acknowledged: Benjamin Rowe managed to motivate me to get off my ass and do something. I am in no position to judge one way or another as to the efficacy of his Enochian magic methods or to the quality of his insights into the nature of those spirits and how one works with them. Could be total freaking delusion for all I know (though, even for the uninitiated his visions make interesting reading, in small doses).
But God bless his dearly departed little head for two non-Enochian essays he took the time to write: A Short Course in Skrying and (especially!) The Essential Skills of Magick. God bless him, because he wrote them for people like me. And if you’re among the fledgling magicians reading this blog, it’s worth your while to know that he wrote them for someone like you!
You see, as alluded to in my first posting (remember the seeds I said would sprout and grow in the course of writing this blog?), for a number of reasons, I threw Western mysticism in the trash bin in my mid twenties. The mentor of my youth often said that studying occultism requires a lot of threshing and winnowing to get a meager amount of wheat out of a mountain of chaff. At one point I got tired of the backlash from the slipshod “magic” I and my friends were doing (exacerbated by drug use and promiscuous lifestyle; we were some of the first chaotes and didn’t even know it 😉 ), and I became convinced that for all the chaff I was going through, I’d never get enough grain together to bake a half-decent loaf of bread. Let’s face it: there’s an awful lot of pure hogwash between the covers of many books on “mysticism” or “occultism”. Some good clearly written stuff has come out in the last ten years. But in my youth, most of what you could get was from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I fled to martial arts and what seemed like more straight-forward and clean philosophies associated with budo. Seemed is an operative word. Zen is, well, enigmatic, and Shinto is, come to think of it, an awful lot like western magic in many ways.
When we started sending our eldest son to Waldorf school seven years ago, the things the children did and learned in class, as well as the symbols and vibrations I encountered in school festivals and seasonal celebrations, struck chords deep inside me. Waldorf education is based on Western mysticism and an understanding of human nature that arises from an essentially “Rosicrucian” ontology. It arises from the wisdom that has roots going back beyond recorded history. Chords kept being struck that resonated with the kabbalah I learned way back when; with esoteric mythologies; with the things I learned as a devout Catholic in my childhood. After giving it more than two decades to settle in my mind, I now recognized the wheat of the Western tradition when I saw it, and it was easier to separate it from the chaff.
Western mysticism was the nourishment my soul needed now. After all: I am a Western man.
So I picked up a thread I’d dropped back then. I rejoined AMORC.
Now, I know lots of folks in the magick crowd (note: I included the k this time), have little respect for AMORC. And that’s their privilege, as long as they don’t waste their breath trying to run it down to me. The simple fact is that it’s a genuine initiatory school. It suits some people, and doesn’t suit others. Fine. The usual criticism from these quarters consists of faulting it for what it isn’t. It isn’t a school of magic. It doesn’t teach esoteric kabbalah or laboratory alchemy. It doesn’t teach astrology. All of this is true. But it does teach what Mark Stavish calls “the raja yoga of Rosicrucianism.” He should know. He was once a high officer in AMORC. Though he chose to move on and pursue other things, I’ve seen Mr Stavish defend AMORC on forums. The gist of what he says is: criticisms of AMORC just show that the critic doesn’t really understand what AMORC is.
Many of you would be interested to know that the exercises taught in the AMORC monographs are very similar to the exercises in Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics, and the monographs were published first. I suspect common sources.
Anyway, I rejoined.
As I relearned things I’d left behind long ago, I also did internet research. It’s bizarre how Google searches often lead you “accidentally” to exactly the information you need in a particular moment. I was amused to read Frater Rufus Opus refer to this form of divination as “Googleomancy”. If you plug in keywords like “Rosicrucian”, or “hermetic”, or “astral” or what have you, it doesn’t take long before you start finding magic(k) sites. So I started reading them. And I was amazed to see how many occult resources there are on the internet nowadays. Back in the seventies, if there was no occult book store down the street, you were just plain out of luck. Which pretty much covered everyone living outside of a major city. But the internet has changed all of that. Plus, I found digital versions of books I sold or gave away long ago when I moved long distances and had to shed possessions.
The itch to do magic developed. Mind you, I’ve always engaged in spiritual practices of one sort or another. Meditation and breathing exercises were part of my martial arts regimen. But magic is something a bit more… what? Challenging? Intrigueing? I don’t know. Maybe the best way to describe it is a deep-seated feeling that I’ve always been meant to do this. It’s sought me out in this life.
So now we come back to Benjamin Rowe (thought I’d disgressed hopelessly, didn’t you?) There was always the question in my mind of where to start. I’m sort of a methodical, plodding sort, so I wanted a plan. LBRP is always a likely candidate, but the version I had in my youth (a reprint of Crowley’s version from the Equinox) was so barebones and dry. Every now and then I would come across another version of the LBRP on the ‘net, note its particular strengths and omissions, and save a copy or print out a copy for my files.
And then I found Rowe’s Essential Skills. Now I’ll delve into why I say he wrote it for someone like me (and, for you other fledglings). Benjamin Rowe was not a member of a magical order. For whatever reasons, he chose to pursue the path of magic on his own, that is: to teach and initiate himself. He made it quite far, and eventually became an internet publishing phenomenon. Nobody who is serious about Enochian magic has not heard of him. He knew what it was like to struggle with the great messy verbose body of written work on the subject of magic — a veritable thousand-headed dragon to be slain by the fairy prince — and that is why, I suspect, he wrote this essay. He is essentially saying (and I’m licentiously paraphrasing like hell here) “I know this stuff is confusing, and it’s hard to take that first step — because you don’t know where or how to take it — so I’m gonna take you by the hand and show you.” Brilliant! The first half of the essay is theoretical, and the second half applies the theory to a particular way of performing the LBRP. The version he gives is the most complete and understandable version — including all the necessary visualizations — I have ever seen published anywhere, bar none. When I finished reading the essay, motivation hit me like a lighting bolt up the rectum. “I must start practicing this, and I must start practicing this NOW!”
Blessings on you Benjamin Rowe, whoever you were/are! If, as I suspect, your little essay has had the same effect on other aspirants to the temple of knowledge, you did a great service to The Work.
In susbsequent postings, I’ll talk about how I applied Rowe’s and others’ guidelines.